Okay, so Florida and LSU will play football this year only the game will be in Baton Rouge on November 19 and not in Gainesville. LSU media will be quick to praise athletic director Joe Alleva for digging in his heels and getting the home game he promised would be played at Tiger Stadium on November 19. But make no mistake about it, Joe Alleva is anything but a winner here. Yes, he got a home game that he promised, but consider the expense:
1. His sludge on the bottom of the septic tank reputation only got stinkier because he refused to negotiate. When you’ve fired your head coach four games into the season on top of botching a palace coup in the final regular season game the year before, you aren’t exactly living out the Dale Carnegie winning friends and influencing neighbors dream. If you’re a head coach with multiple job opportunities such as Houston’s Tom Herman there may not be enough money to lure you to Baton Rouge to work for an AD who almost makes the last years of the late Al Davis seem like a discourse on sanity.
2. Alleva did secure a home game for November 19 but there were other possibilities if only he had come to the negotiating table willing to work things out for the good of both LSU and the University of Florida as well as the communities those schools represent. LSU gets a home game. Florida LOSES two home games which means Gainesville takes a hit of $20 or more million that would circulate through the community just from the hotels, restaurants and merchants. Consider also the kids who sell sodas, the concession stands that raise money for charitable organizations and the law enforcement officers who supplement their all too meager salaries with the overtime they pick up working game day in Gainesville.
3. Now LSU will have to go on the road back-to-back years to Gainesville in 2017-18. Florida is a team very much on the rise. Will LSU’s stock be rising the next two years? Maybe, but what if Alleva can’t land that big name coach he so desperately needs to make up for firing Les Miles, who went 114-34 and won a national championship.
4. After seeing the way Alleva tried to strong arm the SEC and the University of Florida, do you think for one second the rest of the ADs in the league are going to bend over backwards to help out LSU the next time there is some sort of crisis?
Now the closest thing you’ll get to a winner in this situation is Foley. The LSU media will say he blinked, but if you take a closer look at the situation, Foley not only maintained the integrity of the SEC by agreeing to shift the game to Baton Rouge, but he may have given the Florida Gators a better path to an SEC East Division championship.
First things first. You can’t go to Atlanta if you don’t play eight SEC games, so playing the game was a necessity. Joe Alleva was willing to play South Alabama in Baton Rouge which means he was willing to compromise both LSU’s and Florida’s chances of winning a division championship and potentially an SEC title. Foley knew the Gators needed the eighth game so he gave the Gators a chance to win the East and repeat as East champs.
It only took one look at the SEC schedule to see that Florida might very well be sitting on top of the SEC East standings come Sunday morning. If the Gators take care of Homecoming business and whack Missouri (as expected), they’ll be 3-1 in the SEC. Tennessee, meanwhile, plays Alabama. If the Vols win that game, they’ll win the SEC East, too. You can count on that, but do you really think Nick Saban is going to lose a game to Butch Jones this weekend? So, if Alabama wins, Tennessee will have two losses, which means the Gators have overcome the loss to the Vols back in September if they run out the rest of their SEC schedule that includes Georgia (in Jacksonville), at Arkansas, South Carolina and then the game in Baton Rouge. That’s a tough but do-able schedule for the Gators, who could finish 7-1.
When LSU hosts Florida, meanwhile, the Tigers will have played Alabama and at Arkansas on back-to-back weekends. Remember now that Ed Orgeron is LSU’s interim coach and if the Tigers lose those two games – entirely possible – they may have no gas left in the tank for a Florida team that’s very capable of knocking them off even if they’re playing at their best.
So, while Foley compromised and agreed to play the LSU game in Baton Rouge, he might have very well given the Gators their best chance to win the SEC East.
The final player in this scenario is SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
No matter how the SEC might try to spin getting this game played as a win for conference integrity, Sankey spent seven days showing he’s not nearly ready to fill the shoes of predecessors Roy Kramer or Mike Slive. Those former commissioners would have had a plan in place within hours after the decision to postpone the game last week. Although the commissioner of the league cannot simply demand something is done in every circumstance, both Slive and Kramer had the clout and support of the league presidents that they could have – and would have – said, “This is the way it’s going to be” and that is exactly the way it would have gone down.
Sankey either didn’t use that option or lacked the clout to pull it off. Instead he let Alleva defy him at every step and he let Georgia AD Greg Magarity get into the act with a public refusal to do anything to move Florida-Georgia up a week. Sankey was bullied and the only thing that bailed him out was Foley.
This was Sankey’s first big crisis and he botched it from start to finish. There is no doubt he will get a second chance, but if he fails the second chance, he’s as good as gone. And, judging by the way he handled his first crisis, I’m not at all sure he’s got it in him to stand up to a really strong AD. If Crazy Joe Alleva can push him around, just think what might happen to Sankey if someone like Jeff Long or Bill Battle or Mitch Barnhart goes nose-to-nose.
It won’t be pretty.
THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH
#14 FLORIDA (4-1, 2-1 SEC) 33, MISSOURI (2-3, 0-2 SEC) 17: The Gators are as healthy as they’ve been in awhile and Luke Del Rio will be taking the snaps Saturday so it figures to be a happy Homecoming. If Del Rio isn’t rusty and a healthy O-line can protect him, it should be a day when the Gators put 4-5 touchdowns (at least) on the board. As for Florida’s defense, the Gators are the best unit Missouri will have seen this year. The key will be forcing Drew Lock to consistently throw the 2-yard pass instead of getting the ball down the field. A Gator win and a Tennessee loss could put Florida back in the lead in the SEC East come Saturday night.
The rest of the SEC:
#1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) 35, #11 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC) 22: The Vols caved in the fourth quarter last year in Tuscaloosa, so they’ve had this rematch at Neyland Stadium circled for 12 months. Win Saturday and the Vols are legitimately back as a true national contender for the first time since Phattus Maximus (Phil) was the HBC. Win and they’ll have a chance to make the college football playoff. Lose and they could finish second in the SEC East and play in the Outback Bowl. As for Alabama, this is a business trip and just one more pesky fly to swat away on the march to a second straight national championship. The defensive game plan won’t be all that complicated: stuff the run and then keep Joshua Dobbs in the pocket. Offensively, figure Alabama takes a page from the Texas A&M game plan and pounds the Vols (they gave up 353 rushing yards to the Aggies last week) unmercifully. Bama wins it and puts the Gators back in the SEC East driver’s seat.
#22 Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 SEC) 41, #13 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 36: After losing to Alabama last year, Arkansas won six of its next seven games with the only loss by a single point. The Hogs are actually a better team than they were last year, when they beat Ole Miss, 53-52, in overtime. Neither one of these teams plays much defense, and both Austin Allen (Arkansas) and Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) figure to light it up throwing the ball. If this game were played at Ole Miss, I’d go with the Rebels, but it’s on the road and Arkansas is a football team ready to go on a roll.
#25 LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC) 45, Southern Miss (4-2) 21: Not that he’s necessary for LSU to win the game, but Leonard Fournette will sit his third straight game due to his ankle, which has never healed properly since he injured it in August. The Tigers will simply hand the ball off to Derius Guice, who is averaging nearly 9 yards per carry and if they get bored slamming that hapless Southern Miss defense between the tackles, they can always go over the top. It’s about time LSU shows it can throw something other than a 2-inch pass. Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are two of the five fastest receivers in the SEC yet neither one is averaging 10 yards per reception. If LSU can’t (or won’t) go over the top against Southern Miss, then it’s going to be a very long rest of the season. SEC defenses won’t be nearly as benevolent as those friendly folks from Hattiesburg.
Georgia (4-2, 1-2 SEC) 21, Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC) 7: Last week Vanderbilt got pounded between the tackles for 258 yards by Kentucky. If Kentucky can do that, think what Georgia can do now that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are healthy. The only way this game gets interesting is if Vandy can stuff the Georgia running game and force freshman QB Jacob Eason to win the game with his arm. In the last two games (Florida and Kentucky), Vandy has allowed a combined 193 passing yards and just 3.7 per pass attempt. Vandy is certainly capable of making it close, but that one-dimensional offense (just 299 yards per game) straight out of the leather helmet era isn’t good enough to challenge the Georgia defense.
Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2 SEC) 31, Brigham Young (3-3) 27: The key for Mississippi State will be stopping BYU’s dual threat QB Taysom Hill. If the Bulldogs can keep him in the pocket, they’ve got a real shot at bringing a win back to Starkville because Hill has been known to throw a pass or two to the guys wearing different color shirts than the one he’s wearing. If Hill gets loose in the running game, Mississippi State will be challenged. Offensively, the Bulldogs still need someone other than QB Nick Fitzgerald to step up in the running game. BYU will be in trouble if one of those MSU tailbacks decides to bring his A game.
As of Thursday, Tim Tebow is 0-9 at the plate in the Arizona Fall Instructional League.
Washington Redskins corner Josh Norman says the NFL has taken all the fun out of the game. Hey Josh, didn’t you know that NFL stands for No Fun League?
We’re getting closer to the World Series. Since the Cubs might actually make it to the World Series, I might even watch. Imagine that.
Whoever loses Saturday night’s game between Stanford (3-2) and Notre Dame (2-4) in South Bend might struggle to make it to a bowl game. In his preseason magazine, Phil Steele had Notre Dame at #9 and Stanford at #10. Of course, this is the same Phil Steele who also had FSU (4-2) as his preseason #1 with Oklahoma (3-2) at #3 and LSU (3-2) at #4.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who is your winner in Saturday’s showdown game with #1 Alabama facing #11 Tennessee at Neyland Stadium? Do the Vols have a chance to spring the upset?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since I tend to listen mostly to jazz and blues stations on Sirius XM, I don’t always stay up to date with the latest musical trends, which might have something to do with my only recent discovery of the band Of Monsters and Men from Reykjavik, Iceland. They’ve put out a couple of top ten studio albums on the US alternative charts as well as a live album. Today’s music is a 2015 live performance by the band.